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Review: Vokey Hand Ground Wedges

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Pros: Hand Ground wedges are made by the same craftsmen who create wedges for tour players. It’s one of the few custom wedge programs that allows consumers to select their favorite grind and tweak it to their preference. It also marks the first time average joes can get their hands on a raw Vokey wedge.

Cons: $350 is a lot for a handmade wedge, but it’s not out of line with Vokey’s competitors. Wedge fanatics will be disappointed that they can’t get handmade pitching wedges, gap wedges and sand wedges.

Bottom Line: A variety of stamping, shaping and sole options makes Hand Ground the go-to lob wedge program for exacting golfers. And if you want your wedge to come off the same grinding wheel as Adam Scott’s wedge, Hand Ground is for you.

Overview

Hand Ground isn’t the average wedge customization service.

Yes, like others it allows golfers to get their wedges with different stamps, letters and phrases. And it also gives golfers the option to pick a custom ferrule, shaft and grip. But Vokey’s WedgeWorks programs already provided all of those options before Hand Ground, along with the ability to purchase WedgeWorks exclusives — limited-edition and TVD wedges that are not available in stores.

Where Hand Ground breaks ground is in its focus on customizable grinds and wedge shaping, which allows golfers to tweak their favorite Vokey grind to their exact preference.

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Four customizable grinds are available through Hand Ground: Vokey’s E Grind, M Grind, T Grind and V Grind, all of which have different playing characteristics. But the beauty of Hand Ground is that even if a golfer were to select a high-bounce wedge, such as a V Grind, he or she could have the wedge tweaked to play with less effective bounce.

That option, called “Pre-Worn” leading edge, is created by grinding off some of the metal on the front of a wedge’s sole. It works to “roll” the leading edge into the sole, allowing the leading edge to sit closer to the ground at address and cut through the ground better in firm conditions.

Conversely, a low-bounce wedge such as Vokey’s T Grind can be made to play with more effective bounce through the addition of a “Pro groove,” a small channel ground into the center of a wedge’s sole that moves the contact point forward. According to Bob Vokey, it can help golfers keep their wedges from digging into the ground on short pitches.

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Above: A Vokey Hand Ground wedge with a pre-worn leading edge and a pro groove. 

Aesthetic changes, such as making the leading edge straighter, the toe squarer or the top line thinner are also possible through Hand Ground.

It should be noted that Vokey is not the only wedge company to offer its grinding services to the public: Cleveland, Edel, James Patrick, Ping, Scratch and others offer wedge grinding and customization services, and unlike Vokey those companies expand their services to pitching, gap and sand wedges.

But none of those companies can claim the high usage of its wedges on the PGA Tour that Vokey boasts, which is the most mesmerizing part of the Hand Ground experience.

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Above: Bob Vokey grinding a Hand Ground wedge for a customer at the Vokey tour department in Carlsbad, Calif.

Since Hand Ground wedges are created in Vokey’s tour department in Carlsbad, Calif., they’re made on the same machines by the same grinders that produce wedges for Adam Scott, Steve Stricker, Jason Dufner and the dozens of other Vokey wedge players on the PGA Tour.

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Above: Each Hand Ground wedge comes with a certificate of authenticity that include the wedge’s specs and is signed by the person who ground the wedge.

Vokey Hand Ground wedges cost $350, and are available for purchase through Vokey’s website. All Hand Ground wedges have a raw finish, which means they will rust over time. According to Vokey, the build time of a Hand Ground wedge takes 10 days from the time the order is confirmed, not including shipping.

Performance

My Hand Ground was made with Vokey’s M Grind — the same grind that was on my current lob wedge, a retail Vokey SM4 60-10. I also ordered it to the same specs, which means that my Hand Ground wedge was nearly identical to my 60-10 on paper — same shaft, grip, swing weight and SM4 grooves. But when I took it to the course, the wedge performed differently thanks to the addition of a pre-worn leading edge.

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Above: A Pre-worn leading edge on a Vokey M Grind Hand Ground wedge.

According to David Neville, Vokey’s marketing manager, wedges with pre-worn leading edges are requested by several tour players. The orders spike in the time before players are scheduled to head overseas for The Open Championship, where the modification helps golfer deal with the faster, firmer conditions that are typical on links golf courses. But you don’t have to be an Open Championship contestant to benefit from a pre-worn leading edge.

I had success with my retail Vokey 60-10 wedge I was fit for in December on straight-faced shots that required a lot of speed, because it allowed me to hit down on the ball steeply without fear that the wedge would dig. But I sometimes struggled to slide the sole of the wedge under the ball on delicate pitch shots from tight lies.

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Above: The tale of two M Grinds. 

The pre-worn leading edge solved that problem, because it made the leading edge sit slightly closer to the ground. That made it much easier for me to slide the wedge under the bottom of the ball, allowing me to contact the ball a groove or two higher on the face. The higher contact point made the ball climb up the face more, creating softer shots with more spin.

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Above: Hand Ground wedges have the same SM4 grooves and face texture as Vokey’s retail wedge models to provide maximum spin. 

As expected, the pre-worn leading edge made the wedge slightly more susceptible to digging compared to my 60-10. But the digging was limited to shorter shots I hit with a straight face and a lot of speed.

I noticed very little difference in the way the wedge performed on full shots and opened-faced shots, which says a lot about the cleverness of Vokey’s sole modifications. Adding a pre-worn leading edge or a pro groove will change a wedge enough to help a golfer do this or that, but it won’t change the wedge completely.

Looks and Feel

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The second modification I had made to my Hand Ground wedge was having the top line made thinner, which Vokey does by removing a small amount of mass from the back of the top line. It’s a look that many golfers, particularly those who play irons with thin top lines, will appreciate at address.

Because Hand Ground wedges come with a raw finish, I speculated that they might have a slightly different feel than my retail wedges with a plated finish. But I was wrong —  I didn’t find any difference in feel.

I did notice, however, that my Hand Ground wedge appeared smaller at address than my Vokey 60-10 with a plated “Tour Satin” finish.

Since Hand Ground wedges have no finish, they will rust as soon as they are introduced to water. In general, wedges with darker finishes look smaller than wedges with lighter finishes, which is why the rusted finish of a Hand Ground will look smaller than a wedge with a Tour Satin finish.

The Takeaway

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If you’re a Vokey lover, there’s only two good reasons not to get a Hand Ground wedge:

  1. It’s out of your price range.
  2. You haven’t taken the time to learn what grind or grind modification will help you play better.

$350 is a lot to pay for a wedge, especially for golfers who like to practice and can wear out as many as two new wedges per season. But it’s a two-edged sword — usually, if golfers are willing to put in the time to practice their wedge game, they’re also willing to spend the money to have their perfect wedge built.

For golfers who don’t know what grind is best for them, I can’t recommend a wedge fitting enough. Wedge makers are offering more grind options on their retail wedges than ever before, and golfers who aren’t testing all the different retail bounce, sole width and camber options aren’t getting the most out of their wedge games.

If you’ve already done such a fitting and think that a program like Vokey’s Hand Ground can help you, you’re probably right. Aside from the putter, no club is more important to scoring than the lob wedge, and golfers should take care to make sure they’re playing one that fits them as well as possible.

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20 Comments

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  1. Tyler

    Aug 21, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    Just too expensive. C’mon, $350 for a damn wedge!

  2. Jateen Rama

    Aug 19, 2013 at 3:57 am

    I love these wedges – reminds me of my own hand ground Vokey wedge that ive ground myself with pre ground leading edge………. will post pix soon!!!!!

  3. Matt

    Aug 16, 2013 at 11:24 pm

    why don’t they sell raw vokeys off the rack?!?!?

  4. Tyler

    Aug 16, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    $350 is crazy. You can get a nice Scratch wedge for $180 that will perform just as well.

    I never really cared for Vokey’s anyway. My Ping Tour S Rustiques serve me well and they were $80 bucks.

  5. dunn

    Aug 15, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    Vokey doesnt make these…….sure there is a team of grinders there that do it…….$350 is way way to much

  6. Jordan

    Aug 11, 2013 at 11:32 am

    I’m a huge fan of vokey wedges, but $350 is just ridiculous. I’ll stick to the $130 wedge, that’ll work just as well as these.

  7. stephenf

    Jul 29, 2013 at 11:21 am

    Sometimes it’s not a matter of being “willing” to spend the money, you know. $350 is just outrageous, and it is symptomatic of the price-out that is going on with this once-great game. For a lot of people, especially teenagers or people working entry-level jobs, playing golf is a rare and expensive occasion rather than a regular thing. And if you have a family? If you want to raise your kids in the game, and the only courses in your area charge $20-30 and up for green fees? How are you going to do that with two or three kids, once or twice a week, if you’re anywhere near an average income earner?

    If we wanted to turn this game back into a pastime for the privileged few, if the great era of affordable public play is over, we could hardly do a better job than we’re doing.

    • Gary

      Oct 17, 2013 at 2:52 pm

      Good points. Golf is an expensive game as it is, and thankfully there are cheaper options out there for people who can’t afford the expensive stuff. If money were no object I might think about these ones but you can get a really nice wedge with a good grind for 120-150 bucks, or cheaper if you have some patience.

  8. Square

    Jul 28, 2013 at 5:09 am

    I wear them out too fast to justity this price….

  9. Finchi5

    Jul 26, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    Maybe why James ‘Patrick’ Harrington is joining the team!

  10. Zack

    Jul 26, 2013 at 3:35 am

    So who grinds the wedges off the rack?

  11. Bobby

    Jul 25, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    $350?!?! That’s crazy! You can get a custom grind and custom engraved Hopkins Golf wedge for $150 and a custom Cleveland wedge for $210! Why waste your money on a vokey when you can get the same, if not better wedge from Hopkins or Cleveland.

  12. Augustine

    Jul 25, 2013 at 9:28 am

    um… so the $149 Vokey Wedge is in fact… NOT made by Bob himself but just bears his name? what a surprise!

    For $350 I’d go with James Patrick…

  13. Lance

    Jul 25, 2013 at 7:07 am

    Great write up and photos. When the big boys start doing the little things like this, that usually means trouble for the smaller nitch companies. (Scratch)

    I’m excited to see more of these. What is the turnaround time?

  14. J

    Jul 25, 2013 at 1:31 am

    350.00 is just too much. 🙂

    • Gary

      Oct 17, 2013 at 2:47 pm

      Same here, nice club but too much for my blood. I will stick with my Cally Mack Daddy 2 with a Project X Flighted 95 shaft at no extra charge.

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Equipment

Top 10 clubs of 2003—inspired by Adam Scott’s Titleist 680 irons

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As has been well documented, Adam Scott recently won the Genesis Invitational with a set of Titleist 680 blade irons, a design that was originally released in 2003. One of the great benefits of being one of the best players in the world is you don’t need to search eBay to find your preferred set of 17-year-old irons. Titleist has been stocking sets for Mr. Scott—even to the point of doing a limited production run in 2018 where they then released 400 sets for sale to the general public.

A lot of time has passed since 2003, and considering the classic nature of Scott’s Titleist 680, I figured now was a good time to look back at some other iconic clubs released around the same time.

Ping G2 driver

This was Ping’s first 460cc driver with a full shift into titanium head design. The previous Si3 models still utilized the TPU adjustable hosel, and this was considered a big step forward for the Phoenix-based OEM. The driver was a big hit both on tour and at retail—as was the rest of the G2 line that included irons.

TaylorMade RAC LT (first gen) irons

The RAC LTs helped position TaylorMade back among the leaders in the better players iron category. The entire RAC (Relative Amplitude Coefficient) line was built around creating great feeling products that also provided the right amount of forgiveness for the target player. It also included an over-sized iron too. The RAC LT went on to have a second-generation version, but the original LTs are worthy of “classic” status.

TaylorMade R580 XD driver

Honestly, how could we not mention the TaylorMade R580 XD driver? TM took some of the most popular drivers in golf, the R500 series and added extra distance (XD). OK, that might be an oversimplification of what the XD series offered, but with improved shape, increased ball speed outside of the sweet spot, and lower spin, it’s no wonder you can still find these drivers in the bags of golfers at courses and driving ranges everywhere.

Titleist 680MB irons

The great thing about blades is that beyond changing sole designs and shifting the center of gravity, the basic design for a one-piece forged head hasn’t changed that much. For Adam Scott, the 680s are the perfect blend of compact shape, higher CG, and sole profile.

Titleist 983K, E drivers

If you were a “Titleist player,” you had one of these drivers! As one of the last companies to move into the 460cc category, the 983s offered a classic pear shape in a smaller profile. It was so good and so popular, it was considered the benchmark for Titleist drivers for close to the next decade.

Cleveland Launcher 330 driver

It wasn’t that long ago that OEMs were just trying to push driver head size over 300cc, and Cleveland’s first big entry into the category was the Launcher Titanium 330 driver. It didn’t live a long life, but the Launcher 330 was the grandaddy to the Launcher 400, 460, and eventually, the Launcher COMP, which is another club on this list that many golfers will still have fond memories about.

Mizuno MP 33 irons

Although released in the fall of 2002, the Mizuno MP 33 still makes the list because of its staying power. Much like the Titleist 680, this curved muscle blade was a favorite to many tour players, including future world No. 1 Luke Donald. The MP 33 stayed in Mizuno’s lineup for more than four years and was still available for custom orders years after that. Unfortunately, if you are looking for a set now you are going to have to go the used route.

Callaway X-16 irons

The Steelhead X-16 was a big hit at retail for Callaway. It offered greater forgiveness than the previous X-14’s but had a more compact shape with a wider topline to inspire confidence. They featured Callaway’s “Notch” weighting system that moved more mass to the perimeter of the head for higher MOI and improved feel. There was a reduced offset pro series version of the iron, but the X-16 was the one more players gravitated towards. This is another game improvement club for that era that can still be found in a lot of golf bags.

Ben Hogan CFT irons

The Hogan CFTs were at the forefront of multi-material iron technology in 2003. CFT stood for Compression Forged Titanium and allowed engineers to push more mass to the perimeter of the head to boost MOI by using a thin titanium face insert. They had what would be considered stronger lofts at the time sounded really powerful thanks to the thin face insert. If you are looking for a value set of used irons, this is still a great place to start.

King Cobra SZ driver

In 2003, Rickie Fowler was only 15 years old and Cobra was still living under the Acushnet umbrella as Titleist’s game improvement little brother. The Cobra SZ (Sweet Zone, NOT 2020 Speed Zone) was offered in a couple of head sizes to appeal to different players. The thing I will always remember about the original King Cobra SZ is that it came in an offset version to help golfers who generally slice the ball—a design trait that we still see around today.

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Today from the Forums: “The importance of wedge fitting”

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Today from the Forums we delve into a subject dedicated to wedge fitting. Liquid_A_45 wants to know if wedge fitting is as essential for golfers as iron fitting, and our members weigh into the discussion saying why they feel it is just as imperative.

Here are a few posts from the thread, but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say at the link below.

  • Z1ggy16: “Super important if you’re a serious golfer. Even better if you can get fit outdoors on real grass and even go into a bunker.”
  • ThunderBuzzworth: “The biggest part of wedge fitting is yardage gapping and sole grinds. If you have a grind that doesn’t interact with the turf in your favor, it can be nightmarish around the greens. When hitting them try a variety of short game shots with different face angles etc. with the different grinds to see which one works best for what you need.”
  • Hawkeye77: “Wedge fitting I had was extremely beneficial when I got my SM6s a few years ago. Mostly for working with the different grinds and how they interacted with my swing and on different shots and having an eye on my swing to help with the process and evaluate the results. My ideas of what grinds were right for me based on researching on Titleist, etc. just were not correct in 2/3 of the wedges I ended up with as far as the grinds were concerned. Good to have an experienced fitter available to answer questions, control variables, etc.”
  • cgasucks: “The better you get at this game, the more important wedges are.”

Entire Thread: “The importance of wedge fitting”

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Today from the Forums: “Pull cart recommendations?”

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Today from the Forums we take a look at pull carts currently on the market. Bogeygolfer55 is looking for a quality pull cart for less than $300, and our members have been giving their recommendations in our forums – with Clicgear proving to be a popular option.

Here are a few posts from the thread, but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say at the link below.

  • Yuck: “I have had a clicgear 3.5 for nearly four years now. Holding up well with well over 200 rounds on it so far.”
  • Hawkeye77: “I had a Clicgear and liked it a lot, but my daughter “appropriated” it. Came upon an article a year ago about the Blade IP. Ordered one. It folds flat instead of into a cube which I like, and when I take it out it is quicker to get ready to go, and easier to take down. That doesn’t mean the Clicgear was particularly difficult, but it was more involved and 4 pounds heavier – don’t mind pushing a lot less weight.”
  • Celebros: “Another vote for Clicgear. The 4.0 just came out, so you may be able to find some of the 3.5+ models discounted soon.”
  • I_HATE_SNOW: “Sun Mountain user. Tall thin tires roll through the grass the easiest. Ours are old enough that the tires inflated. Once slimed, they stay up all winter. Mesh baskets on the cart are nice for carrying headcovers, water bottles, dog leash, etc.”
  • birddog903: “I’ve had a caddytek lite three-wheel version for a year or so. No complaints and I paid less than $100.”

Entire Thread: “Pull cart recommendations?”

 

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